The guru facade: Internet marketing shams, flimflams and other BS

Summary:I really, truly loathe charlatans and scammers; how about you? Join me in lambasting them all while also providing some things for people to look out for.

Quite a sales pitch you have there, sir...

Quite a sales pitch you have there, sir...

Hate. That's a strong word, right? Well, hate isn't strong enough for how I feel about some of these Internet marketing "gurus" who sell absolute garbage to people with no care or concern for anyone but themselves. I guess you could say I despise false "gurus" in all capacities, but I see enough of them in this market to focus on just this lot. These loathsome, slimy individuals decide to take it upon themselves to line their pockets with the dollar bills of gullible, desperate, and innocent people.

Perhaps even worse is when I get on YouTube and I see these mom 'n pops videos from people who claim they've used such 'n such product with EXTREME success! They're making $8,000 a SECOND using a product they paid $997 for, yet, if you look closely around other areas of the video, you see some food stamps on a desk, their old beat-up '87 Toyota truck sitting in the driveway, and a debt collector standing there banging on the door.

Naturally, I'm being facetious there, but the dead-giveaway is their facial expressions and how they read so much more of desperation than of prosperity. In the worst cases, these people become an extension of that which has taken them for all that they had. In essence, they then try to learn how to make money by selling the same product to someone else -- maybe even still believing in said product, but just not being able to figure out how to get it to work for themselves.

How does that saying go again about something that rolls downhill?

Yes, I absolutely abhor those who prey on the ignorance and desperation of others. What I find difficult is not calling these people out by name in a public fashion each and every time I run across them. All I want to do is hash it out with them to show how utterly pathetic and evil-personified they are. Unfortunately, I can't do that because I know by experience how defensive many of these people get when you call them out and jeopardize the facade they've put forth with which to thieve the hopes and dreams away from unsuspecting victims by draining their bank accounts and filling their heads with pure nonsense. You see, it's okay when these "gurus" tamper with the livelihood of their victims, but don't you DARE call them out lest you relish getting hit with lawyer this or attorney that for "defamation of character" claims.

What I can do, however, is give a general overview and education of some of the things to look for, look out for, and some of the most typical types of products that best align themselves with huge, ginormous piles of trash. My aim here is two-fold:

1 - Shed light on bogus methods and products (and -- by extension -- those who peddle them) such that you can more easily identify scams.

2 - Help spread awareness and educate others who might otherwise fall victim to Shady McShaderton's wonder-product.

The latter is where I will need your help. If you know anyone who even so much as has the inkling to look into Internet marketing endeavors (making money online, etc.), do me a favor and share this post with them. The less money that goes into the pockets of a-holes, the better. Right? Right! :)

Cliches are your friends.

First thing's first (and obvious): If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Yeah, yeah... I know we've all heard that a thousand times, but I find that people often disregard cliche statements simply because they're cliche. This is erroneous thinking as there is plenty of wisdom to be found in the aforementioned statement. But you know what? Let me modify that statement to more appropriately fit what we're discussing here:

If it looks too easy to be true, it probably is. In other words, if a 30-minute infomercial or 2000+ word sales letter took you from never having heard of a product/method to being a master of implementing it -- even though you don't actually know what it is yet -- just STOP and realize that you are most likely about to be the next victim of a damn-fine salesman. Don't ignore the feeling of reservation or the sinking feeling in your stomach if something just doesn't seem right. Likewise, don't let your desire for monetary success overwhelm your better judgment.

One more cliche for you is, "the grass is always greener on the other side." True to form, let's modify this one to also fit our purposes: "The cash is always greener on the other side." Ah, yes. That works.

Feeling lucky?

 

"You have just found the deal of the century! WOW!!! If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to get rich by hunting for pots of gold while flying on unicorns through double rainbows, well NOW is your chance -- but you must ACT NOW!!!"

 

Don't. Just... stop. If you feel like you've just discovered Atlantis, all you've managed to really do is have the wool pulled over your eyes. Yes, yes... I *know* what it feels like to experience the lure of an attractive offer, but do you know how many of those tend to pan out? For most people, the answer is "never." The lesson here is simply... don't let the feeling of luck cloud your better judgment. It's one of the easiest and most targeted emotions to exploit and make people act on. Just remember that when you purchase something, you're putting money in someone else's pocket. This may not seem like sound logic, but WAY more times than not, it's simply best to look at such offers and wonder why -- if they're so great -- must these people have to sell others the keys to a kingdom of supposed riches?

The lone gunner.

When stumbling across a supposed deal of a lifetime, the desire to capitalize on it is a strong one. However, you are most likely not the lone gunner that the supposed deal has you feeling like you are. Always look for unbiased feedback when it comes to a product you may be interested in buying into. It's one thing to drop $27 for an ebook you find out is only good for putting your recycle bin to use, but it's another thing to pay hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars for a product that claims to prove there really is a unicorn that flies people through double- and triple-rainbows.

Don't just search for reviews, either; search for negative reviews using keywords like "spam," "fraud," "scam," etc. along with the name of the person, Web site, or product you're curious about. Be aware that many of these people write fake reviews about their products! One of the most sure-fire signs that someone is looking to steal your money is if you search for reviews using negative keywords (like the ones listed above) and you get cleverly-worded positively-spun articles that show up at the top of the search results. For instance, an article with a title like "Is such-and-such product a scam and is blahblahblah a fraud?" -- yet the body of the article is practically another sales letter. Yeah, watch out for those guys.

Signs of a BS artist.

In the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there are TONS of crap sites who offer services and line their sites with fake awards and badges to make them look more trusted/utilized than the competition. The best thing about them is that they don't link the images out anywhere; they just expect you to believe they were awarded "SEO Company of the Year" by President Obama's momma in her pajama bottoms. With that in mind, make sure you look for those types of indicators on a site and research into them. If you can't find a supposed award within the industry or an affiliated association with said supposed award, then you're most likely dealing with a BS artist.

References are your friend, too. Let someone's reputation speak for itself by reaching out to other clients they've done work for; however, if you can't validate someone's supposed contact, then there's always the chance it could be their partner in crime, family member, or friend.

Name-dropping.

"Look at me! Look who I'm standing with in this picture!" that guy before in some form or fashion. Chances are, if he's showing a picture of himself standing next to Chuck Norris wrestling a shark, something fishy's going on (no pun intended). Anyone who takes it upon themselves to try to establish credibility by mooching off of the popularity of others is most likely a sham. There are certainly exceptions, but never have I been met with a single one in this industry. Watch out for name-droppers!

Now, if you will, allow me to share with you one of my first lessons in first-class "ass-hattery" by would-be gurus from MLM (Multi-Level Marketing; A.K.A. pyramid scheme) in the late 90's. I was fueling my car at a gas station and this guy walked up to me, struck up conversation with an impressionable (though slightly skeptical) teenager (me), and lured me into the world of MLM. It wasn't until our 3rd meeting that he slipped up and helped me to realize how full of crap he was. He said something to the tune of, "man, I promise you that you will have a Ferrari within a year's time span if you do this. I know a guy who just bought one!" The problem is, he had also said previously that he was about 3 years into this "business." He struck me as ultra-dedicated, yet he was driving a rusted-out Honda civic? Come on, now... You do the math.

Think of me as Internet marketing's James Randi, if you will. Unfortunately, investing in a bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills and ingesting the whole thing at once to prove they do absolutely nothing is a bit easier on the wallet than me shelling out hundreds of dollars on Internet marketing products to review, just to prove they're complete and utter garbage. Ultimately, I'm looking to defeat quackery through education. If I can't land a right hook on the jaw of the person who knowingly accepts exorbitant amounts of money from people who honestly don't know any better, then the next best thing is to try to reach those who don't know any better and give them something tangible to leverage to see through these creeps.

Since I nowhere near covered them all, if you have some ideas you would like to share to aid in educating the innocent, please do share them in the comments below. Likewise, if you've been had for hard-earned money, I would love to hear your experience(s). I've got a couple myself, so I can't sit here and act like my mental facilities have always been such that these people have never managed to fool me before (albeit quite a while back at this point).

Thank you for taking the time to read my rant. You see, when I say these people steal the hopes and dreams of others, I don't mean that figuratively; I really do mean that literally. Don't let your wants/needs/hopes/situation steer your decision-making such that you're left high-and-dry.

Topics: Browser

About

Stephen is a freelance writer and blogger based in Charlotte, NC. His contributions to ZDNet cover topics related to security, gaming, Microsoft, Apple, and other topics of interest with a tech/SMB skew.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.